Democratic Progressive Caucus elections just boiled over

The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida holds their election and conference tomorrow, and if the debate leading into it is any indication, it will be bellwether for how clubs and caucuses operate under the FDP’s new leader, Stephen Bittel.

Since Bittel took the helm of the party there’s been speculation about how much autonomy an organization like the Progressive Caucus might be able to enjoy. Bittel is known for managing things, and it’s rumored that he intends to “manage” clubs and caucuses from within — either by exerting pressure, or filling seats with party loyalists.

It was in this atmosphere that DPCF President Susan Smith asked Vice President Tom Conboy to step down, in order for her to pick a new VP who would eventually take over the caucus as President. Conboy was blindsided by the move, but tried to work with Smith to find a candidate both could agree upon. Smith was uninterested, and told Conboy “I guess we’ll have an old fashioned election, then.”

That’s when a group of new Chapter members formed a slate to run as “accountability progressives,” and many on the existing board doubled-down on Smith’s initial pick. The unfortunate situation has led to factionalizing the Progressive Caucus, with many members seeing this as a “thumb on the scale” move, much like the improprieties Sanders faced during the 2016 Presidential Democratic Primary by Debbie Wasserman Schulz, Donna Brazile and others in the DNC who actively supported candidate Clinton.

Everyone has an opinion about how the party comported itself during the Primary, and that will continue to boil over into other business as long as we avoid the truth of what the party did to Sanders. This dustup in the DCPF is simply a continuation of that battle. So let’s review.

The DNC kneecapped Sanders, pushing his campaign and supporters aside for a candidate who couldn’t win. That’s a fact. Clinton lost to the GOP candidate her campaign worked to elevate, thinking they’d have an easy battle against him. Democrats to the left of Rahm Emanuel were targeted as enemies of the party by David Brock’s million+ online troll operation. Clinton was provided debate questions by Donna Brazile. Debates were limited to an asinine, six events, half of which were held on holidays or opposite sporting events — giving most Americans no access to the Democratic message after months of record-breaking viewership for Republican debates. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart was told to question Sanders’ faith tradition (oh noes, he’s Jewish! possibly atheist!). Capehart further embarrassed himself claiming that photos of Sanders during his civil rights days, weren’t actually him, but another guy who just looked like him. The new leader of the DNC, Tom Perez, advised Clinton to smear Sanders as the candidate of “angry white people,” leading to the famously offensive “Bernie Bro” smears against supporters who did nothing more than expect the party to continue in the tradition of FDR in supporting people instead of “economic royalists.”

I could go on and on. There’s so much the party did to alienate voters who could have delivered a wave election. What’s completely inexplicable, is the party continues to send the message that these voices; these volunteers; these small dollar donors, are simply not wanted in the party.

And so, it’s a continuation of this nasty tribal battle to continue to push progressives out of the party — especially, to push progressives out of the Democratic Progressive Caucus.

Maybe the DPCF will emerge from this election prepared to work with new progressives in a democratic process they can be proud of. That means avoiding the appearance of thumb-on-the-scale impropriety in elections, and supporting full and fair representation from Chapters on the Board.

It’s unfortunate that there was a move to handpick leaders because it’s led to the impression that the organization is more interested in currying favor with FDP leadership, than it is with keeping its Board free from factionalism that is barely being contained beneath the surface of the party.

I’ve heard from many that the this election just doesn’t feel Democratic. Candidates have been attacked for having the gall to challenge some who were handpicked. Isn’t that what Democracy is all about?

Regardless of how tomorrow plays out, the larger question remains: How will the Democratic Progressive Caucus be able to function under the “management” of FDP Chair Bittel?

My guess is that if all this happened two years ago, you wouldn’t have seen the DCPF work for bold progressives like Alan Grayson in primaries against New Democrats/Blue Dogs like Patrick Murphy.

What’s worse, given the nature of this one battle, one might further venture to guess that bold progressives might not find a place in Democratic campaigns going forward. Give us more Alex Sinks, and Charlie Crists — and castrate the clubs/caucuses that are meant to keep you in touch with the grassroots — and you’ll have a party even further from relevance than it is now.





  1. Time to leave the party and fight for our values on the outside!


    1. JOSEPH KREPS · ·

      Try banging your head against the wall. You’ll accomplish the same thing.


  2. Mark Lynn · ·

    The Clubs are irrelevant to non-existent outside of South Florida. When I lived in Dade I was a member of four different Dem clubs (an officer in two of them) and occasionally attended a couple of others in the north end of the county. But, when I moved to Tampa there were none …. nada …. not even the YD’s. I attempted to get them going again, along with a couple of others, but never really took off (a few years later another attempt was successful). Then in Ocala, nothing other than the DEC (which is quite an active group) & the nearby mega-senior metropolis of The Villages. The Democratic Clubs are pretty much a regional phenom (dominated & run by older folks), for one reason or another. A major problem is that the under 50 crowd today are just not joiners …. I know many organizations from veterans groups to Elks & Moose are suffering. I have been the youngest member of my local genealogy society for nearly 20 years now!


    1. This is very true. I was accustomed to the culture of Dem clubs in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach when I moved to Tallahassee. There only one club existed, the North Fla Dem Club which basically overlapped the DEC. Then in 2002 when I did DEC outreach with the party I realized the whole Dem club & caucus phenomena didn’t exist up and down I-4 either.


  3. Well said Brook. The job of Progressives is to move the party left. It is not the job of the FDP to move us right. If we are going to turn the state of Florida Blue, we need to differentiate ourselves from the Republicans, not mimic them. If we are to succeed we must work together to. convince Independents that we are the party of the people, not Greedy Corporations .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jessica vaughn · ·

    This is untrue and slanted journalism. Extremely disappointing. Bittel has zero influnence on the progressive caucus and the details of the elections in this article are misleading.


    1. I personally approved your comment, Jessica. Feel free to rebut anything I said.


    2. Mick the Miller · ·

      For the 10 millionth time, an opinion blog cannot be “slanted.” IT’S AN OPINION.

      And, just a note, but saying “that’s not true and you’re biased” is the argument of someone with no facts on their side.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jessica vaughn · ·

    I would, because I have lots to say on this issue. However, I have obligations to uphold and a conference to help put on.


  6. This is the first I’ve heard of the accusations against Tom Perez re: “angry white man”. What’s the source of this?


    1. In the Podesta emails — Perez’ own words.


  7. Funny when someone has the time to read an entire article and then post a comment about how it is wrong, but just can’t seem to find the time to point out a single specific thing that is wrong with it when asked. Found the time to reply and say that she couldn’t reply though lol

    Liked by 1 person

  8. […] in the interior of the country. The new E.D. will also inherit a party with a progressive wing that does not trust the establishment including the new FDP Chair, as well as an insider clique in Tallahassee who have long since checked out on the […]


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